Revised on Jun, 16, 2020

Internet browsers not opening PDF documents in a browser window is a common issue. Generally it happens due to browser and other software updates. Such updates can automatically change settings and force PDF documents to be downloaded rather than opened in a browser window. This article shows how you can view PDF documents in various browsers with or without Adobe reader plug-in.

Update Reader or Acrobat

Adobe releases free updates quarterly. Make sure you update your version of Reader or Acrobat to the latest release. Old versions of Reader or Acrobat may not be working properly with new browser versions.

  1. Open Reader or Acrobat
  2. Choose Help -> Check for Updates
  3. After installation is complete, restart your computer and test the PDF again to see if you can view itAdobe Check for Updates

Reset the Display PDF In Browser preference (Acrobat/Reader X or earlier)

Try resetting the display preference in your browser to clear up the viewing issue.

  1. In Reader or Acrobat, right-click the document window, and choose Page Display Preferences
  2. From the list at left, select Internet and deselect Display PDF in browser, and then click OK
  3. Try to open the PDF again from the website
  4. Re-enable Display PDF in browser to reset functionality, and the click OK

Browser specific solutions

Enable the Adobe PDF browser add-on in Internet Explorer 8 and later

Make sure that the Adobe PDF browser add-on is enabled

  1. Open Internet Explorer and choose Tools > Manage Add-ons
  2. Under Add-on Types, select Toolbars and Extensions
  3. In the Show menu, choose All add-ons
  4. In the list of add-ons, select Adobe PDF Reader.


If you don’t see the Adobe PDF Reader add-on, try the other options on the menu. For example, on some systems, the add-on appears when you select Run Without Permission.

  1. Click the Enable button

Note: If the button says Disable, then the add-on is already enabled. This button toggles between Enable and Disable, depending on the status of the selected add-on.

internet explorer toolbars extensions adobe pdf reader

Enable sets the Adobe PDF Reader add-on to open PDFs in the browser.

Disable turns off the add-on so it does not open PDFs in the browser.

PDF reader add-on in Firefox

Adobe Acrobat reader plug-in is in no longer available in Firefox. Plug-in support has been dropped other than Flash. You can still view PDF files in Firefox using built-in viewer, however it does not support form filling.

To set preview of PDF forms in browser, open “Options” menu and find “Applications” in “General” settings section, Set “Portable Document Format (PDF)” to “Open in Firefox”.firefox settings application portable document format open

PDF reader add-on in Chrome or Microsoft Edge Chromium based browser

Chrome and Acrobat reader plug-in are no longer compatible. Acrobat Reader plug-in for Google Chrome is based on the Netscape Plug-In API (NPAPI) technology. As of September 2015, NPAPI support in the Google Chrome web browser is removed entirely. For more information, see Change in support for Acrobat and Reader plug-ins in modern web browsers. You can still view PDF files in Chrome and Microsoft Edge based on Chromium using built-in viewer, however it does not support form filling.

Preview of PDF documents from browser can be configured from Edge Chromium based browser “Settings” menu

edge settings site permissions

In order to set Chrome to open PDF documents in browser using default Chrome Preview, open Settings. Then open “Site Settings” in “Privacy and security” section:

chrome privacy security site settings

Find “PDF documents” in “Additional content settings”:

chrome additional content settings pdf documents

PDF in Microsoft Edge browser

Edge browser is a default Internet browser and PDF viewer for Windows 10. It does not have any support for ActiveX plug-ins. Therefore, the Acrobat/Reader plug-in won’t work with Edge. However, Edge has its own built in viewer that allows opening PDF documents in the browser window. Windows 10 Fall creators update has significantly improved PDF handling experience. One of the biggest changes – it now supports form filling. You can also configure Edge to be you default PDF viewer for PDFs saved locally on your PC.

Microsoft edge - default PDF viewer

Note: PDF Share Forms recommends using Internet Explorer for PDF forms handling in PDF Share Forms Enterprise product. PDF Share Forms Information Worker and PDF Share Forms Cloud use their own built-in viewer and support all modern browsers.

3 thoughts on “How to configure your browser to open PDF documents in browser window”

  1. I use Slimjet. Pdf attachments open with the Acrobat plugin but the only option offered is download. I want to actually open the pdf, in a window. I don’t care whether it’s a Slimjet window or an Acrobat window.

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